JOEY LEON GUERRERO, 35, talks with his wife, DELORA DENISE LEON GUERRERO, 28
Joey Leon Guerrero: The first time we met, I stepped into your office and I asked you to sign one of my papers—I guess it was for my meal card. But we didn’t talk at all until we got deployed and I heard that you were coming to Company B.
Delora Denise Leon Guerrero: You sent me a couple of e-mails, but I was there to work. I was focused, driven. I was, like, We’re in Iraq. There’s no time for romance or relationships.
So we spent four months as friends, getting to know one another, seeing each other at work.
During that friendship phase I heard you talking about your family, and I loved it. I’m very family oriented too. I also noticed your leadership—the way you talked to your soldiers and your supervisors, how you carried yourself, the way you dressed, how your weapon was always clean. You didn’t let anything slip by. I liked how driven you were. And as we became friends, I liked how you were opening up to me—you were so honest and real.
Joey: But you gave me the cold shoulder. So I was, like, I’ll stay focused on being friends for now. Because I knew one day you were going to change your mind.
Delora: And then the defining moment was when I was about to leave on R&R, but a sandstorm kept me in Baghdad. We were outside, and you were helping me with my bags by the door of the tent. All of a sudden we get indirect fire—mortars started falling. Boom! Boom! Boom! It wasn’t the first time I had heard mortars, but it was the first time I was standing outside talking while they were going off.
So I ran to the bunker. Eventually, you came in kind of casually, because you were seasoned. And then we were crouching across from each other in the bunker, waiting for the all clear. I was just looking at you, and it was like a romantic
movie scene where all the visions of the last four months come into play: everything we talked about; how you talked to your kids on the phone; the fact that you called your mother; how you treated me. All of it came together while I was looking at you, and I thought, You know what? Life is way too short to pass you up. And I think it was that moment where it changed from friendship to, I can’t let this one go or I’m a fool.
When I went on R&R, I had you on my mind. And when I got back we would walk every night just to get away from the other soldiers and talk. Our romantic moments were walking to the bunkers. Doesn’t really sound romantic, I guess: being fully dressed in uniform with a weapon slung on your back . . .
Joey: . . . But from our perspective, we did what normal couples would do. We just did it as a couple in Iraq.
Delora: You picked out a ring online. And when you handed me the box, more mortars hit. We had to evacuate and go back into the bunkers. I thought, Is this a sign?
Later that day, you walked me home.
Joey: That’s when I got down on my knees with my weapon slung on my back, hoping we weren’t going to get hit. And it wasn’t your traditional engagement ring box—it was more like a post office box—and I tore that open and said, “Would you marry me?”
I was kind of hesitant at first—being proposed to in Iraq is not what every girl dreams of.
Delora: But I knew you were the one for me. So when you said, “Do you want to wait?” I said, “No. This is where we are. This is the moment.”
Joey: You didn’t turn your back on me. You gave me a chance, and you accepted me.
I can’t ask for anything better than you.
Recorded in Frederick, Maryland, on May 22, 2010.
RON MILLER, 61, talks with his wife, PEPPER MILLER, 57
Ron Miller: Pepper would describe me as a ladies’ man, and I was. Twenty-five years ago, I knew a lot of women, I dated a lot of women, and most of the relationships were fairly shallow. But my conversations with you weren’t shallow.
Pepper Miller: I can’t pinpoint when I fell in love with you, but I remember one time you left a message on the answering machine: “Hi, this is Ron. Just checking on you, baby.”
I absolutely loved that. I remember saving that message on the machine, and I would play it and play it. That did it for me. But when you first broached the subject of marriage, I was, like, “I can’t marry you.”
Ron: But I didn’t quit.
Pepper: No you didn’t, thank God. We had a big wedding, and it was exciting. Walking down the aisle as Pepper Hunter and coming back down the aisle as Pepper Miller, that was a little startling. But I got into it; I enjoyed being Pepper Miller. We had a good life.
But things changed, and I began to feel like our marriage was all about you, and I wanted it to be about me too. So we got divorced. It was painful. We went to the same church, and you moved to the other side of the church. I felt like giving you the finger several times, but then I moved on. You dated people, and I dated people.
Ron: I poured myself into my work. But it was hard; I missed you.
Pepper: I missed you too. I did. Remember when you called me and you had the flu? I came and made you some soup. After tucking you in, I remember smelling your cologne on me. I missed the smell of your cologne. It’s those little things that you miss.
I would call my girlfriend and say, So and so is a really nice guy, and I have a good time with him, but . . . And my girlfriend said, “Well, the problem with this guy is he’s not Ron, and the problem with the other guy is he’s not Ron. . . .” I didn’t want to believe that. We were divorced: You had moved on, and I had moved on. Then my girlfriend said, “Don’t hold Ron hostage to the past.” When she said that I started crying, and she’s like, “If you don’t care about him, why are you crying?” Those words freed me to look at the possibility of us getting back together. I was, like, I’ve got to call him. So I called you, and we started talking. And you were just a sweetheart. We started dating, and it was good.
Then I took my dad on a cruise. We were unpacking on the ship, and in my suitcase there was this long letter from you, asking me to marry you. It was just a pouring out of your heart. That was in August. In December, we were married.
Ron: We were married eight years the first time, we were divorced five years, and this December it will be ten years we’ve been married again.
Pepper: We still have our bumps, huh?
Ron: Yeah. I guess we’ve learned that we’re always going to have our bumps, but there’s nobody that we’d rather be with than each other. The lesson is to hang tough and to do the necessary things to make it work.
Pepper: And to continually be grateful. We have been through a lot together, but I’m still excited to be with you. And I’m always grateful when I can snuggle with you and smell that cologne.
Recorded in Chicago, Illinois, on February 24, 2011.
LAUREN WEITZMAN, 50, talks with her husband, STUART DRESCHER, 61
Lauren Weitzman: I was thirty-five years old and living in Richmond, Virginia. There wasn’t anyone significant in my life, and somehow a lifelong partner didn’t seem to be in the cards for me; I was coming to peace with that. Then I bumped into an old friend at a conference. I started talking with him, but somebody else was standing there.
Stuart Drescher: I don’t think that you looked at me once during the whole conversation, but I was fascinated by you. And when you walked away, I said, “I have to meet her.”
Our friend said, “She usually goes to the social hours at the end of the afternoon presentations,” which I never participated in, but I showed up. And there I was, talking to you for the first time. There was this fascination with you that was almost magnetic. It felt like we’d known each other for a very, very long time.
Lauren: I was a bit dismayed to realize that you were living in Salt Lake City. There was the excitement of just feeling really close and connected, but then we had to go our separate ways. And so we began this long-distance thing: I was in Richmond, Virginia, you were in Salt Lake City, and our airline carrier was Delta. So we’d either fly through Cincinnati or we’d fly through Atlanta. Somebody—I think it was me, you think it was you—decided that since we’re traveling through these airports, Wouldn’t it be fun to leave notes for each other that the person could find on their next way across?
Stuart: We’d write a bit of poetry or some form of appreciation, or just a thought. Then we would fold them up and tuck them under a chair in the loading areas and send a map to the other person with the concourse and the gate area, and X marks the spot.
Lauren: Although we’d only known each other for a few months at this point, it didn’t seem right to spend Thanksgiving apart. It was a wonderful holiday, and when I flew home I knew I wanted to leave you something. So as I was heading from Salt Lake to Cincinnati, the only thing I could think to put on the note was “Will you marry me?”
I wasn’t ready to tell you about the note, but I was definitely ready to write it. It was probably the longest I ever sat with a decision. [Laughs.] But you’re a patient man, and in March I finally gave you a map to find the note.
Stuart: I flew to Cincinnati, and my plane was delayed in landing. I found myself running down the concourse, hoping to get to the next plane in time. I was running at a pretty good clip, and all of a sudden I remembered the note. I was debating, Should I stop and risk my connection? But I had to see if I could grab that note. So I peeled into the gate area and identified which chair it was. There was a fellow sitting there, wearing a very expensive suit, and I walked over and said, “Excuse me, I think I dropped my pen when I was sitting here previously,” and I reached under the seat. I grabbed the note, took off running down the hallway, and got to the gate just before the door swung shut.
Lauren: Back in Richmond, I was thinking: Would you find the note? What were you going to think when you got it? I ducked out of a faculty meeting early and drove out to the Richmond airport. I had a big bunch of flowers, and I felt just like a bride waiting for her groom.
I still remember you walking off the plane, and the minute I saw you I knew you had found the note. You just had that glow. I had the bouquet of flowers, and we gave each other a big hug, and you said, “Yes!”
Recorded in Salt Lake City, Utah, on April 19, 2009.